Posted by: philipwhiuk | September 26, 2011

Mod Baker Responds (and Jiblix appears)

Been a busy 72 hours or so from my end and I’m now in a position where I feel I can discuss it all in a considered fashion.

On the 24th I attended, as a friend, the ex-mod Jiblix’s leaving party. Now quitting statements are one a dozen, but he’s been a friend for several years in a somewhat ad-hoc fashion. It also gave me a way to touch-base (to use an outlandishly American expression) with a few others and get a feel for the sentiment.

Normal things happened – I arrived late as per usual. Screenshots and a speech. Jiblix published a typically well written if slightly inflamatory video protesting the death of the bots (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsFExAw6ZjM&feature=channel_video_title)

So that all goes down without any appearances untoward and I log out (I think the context is important though).

Yesterday, Mod Baker messaged me on Twitter (Moe would point out here that I didn’t check my mentions until he poked me hard!). Yup he has a Twitter it turns out (I wasn’t following him at the time), it’s real enough to be considered for a response.

“baker011 @king_runite1 Just read your blog and am a little shocked at your comments and perceptions. Would love to talk more about it”

Someone read my blog?? Mod Baker011 read it? :O

That was my initial reaction and then I thought.. which post. Hopefully not the really really early lame ones. Well given that I’d reviewed his Q&A it was always going to be that. How he found me will be a future question – Googling himself probably as I’m third for: Mod Baker011 – not bad considering this is a tiny blog and the previous two are RuneScape itself.

Anyway, I did a scan through of all the comments I made, I’m a fairly long-handed writer (you have to be to get the points in context I feel), but there wasn’t anything I wasn’t prepared to defend. So RuneFest felt like a reasonable place to debate it.

At this point, I’d like to say my opinion of the guy had improved somewhat. I’m pretty sure Sunday isn’t one of his days in the office, so you get credit from me on that. If it is, well you’re a manager doing shifts and having done shifts I still give him the credit.

Moving to today, Baker responds that it sounds reasonable and advises me to summon him if necessary – I’m pretty sure I’ll spot him though 🙂

Anyway, Baker was in the office today and made a post on the General Forum, to UNLOCK a thread asking him to resign and posting a very coherent response to both some of the thread’s points and mine. I’d not read the thread – nor would I have supported it – I don’t have or want any say in Jagex’s staffing decisions. Some of them are interesting or questionable, but I’d far rather debate policy than people. I’ve not seen barely any evidence that Jagex hires bad people, indeed everyone I’ve met (quite a few) have been pleasant, courteous and decent. So no, I draw the line there. Major kudos for this.

I’ll say now, if you want Jagex-bashing you ain’t gonna get it. There are still issues I’ll raise and questions to answer. But the tone has changed slightly. However, fair warning Mod Gregg Baker011, this is words and talk is cheap, we’ve seen a lot. You’re new, but Jagex and MMG aren’t. Many of the problems are really old and someone hired your predecessor. Some of it’s aimed above!

The format from last time seemed fairly reasonable so here we go again, round 2 😛

“I have seen a lot of comments of both support and concern for my first three months at Jagex. Thanks for those who realise that change does take time, that other priorities can come along and bump the deadline on projects and that I need to fully settle in and learn the “Jagex way” for some things before implementing wholesale changes. “

Hmm, I’d take bits and pieces from the Jagex way. Like I touched on last time, Jagex-staff an extraordinary ability to pick and answer only the tough questions. For example in a Forum-thread style Q&A they can be seen to pick easy questions (such as those totally irrelevant to what they do at Jagex) ignoring previously asked but tough questions. I’ve seen it in game and on the Forums. Look at where Jagex Mods respond. Look at the thread titles they respond to. If all they do is post the next number or word in a forum game, it’s not Management or Support. The CoverIT system only helps Jagex enforce this ability. The Mods that answer or atleast acknowledge the hard questions earn respect from the community.

Bots/lack of communication from CM around this

We work in a team that is part of a much bigger organisation. As such, we have to ensure our communications and our plans fall in line with the rest of the business. Jagex, as a company, is taking the botting situations very seriously – in my first three months here I have probably sat in over 30 hours worth of meetings discussing the situation, making people aware of our members feedback and suggesting ways to tackle the issue.

Jagex are very far on in implementing a new strategy for the bot situations and as such we are close to announcing what this entails. We have a few things planned right now and while I don’t want to be secretive, its still important that we retain a certain element of surprise when rolling out things. The last thing we want is for the companies providing the bots to be working on a workarounds before we even implement it – we need to stay one step ahead of them moving forward!

We are holding an Insider session on bots at RuneFest and I hope that shows our desire to really open the dialogue with you guys to try and tackle the problem. It really isn’t going to happen over night though as much as I would love it to but as a company we really are committed to finding a solution to this issue.

I wish I could say more, its not because I don’t want to, or because we don’t have any fixes/answers to the situations – it’s simply we need the time to deliver the fix. Every MMO out there suffers from bots, we are not unique in that regard, but we also need your help. If people didn’t buy the bots or they didn’t RWT then these companies wouldn’t even exist.

Again, I’d really love a name. Who heads the Anti-Macro and Anti-RWIT system. Are they under Community Management or Content or what? Is it MMG and then the individual ICU guys responsible. Community Management is taking the flak on this because we don’t even know the head of the ICU team.

Investigation in the Community Unit Team Leaders
Matthew P
Saunders H

Who do these guys report to? Simple question.

Regarding the new strategy, I’ll hold fire. I’ve heard rubbish and good stuff on this. FT/Wilderness removal – good from my perspective. WIPO decisions, generally a waste of time. Gold4RS -> Gold4Fun? Has that really done you any favours? RSBot -> PowerBot.

On the ‘suggesting ways to tackle the issue’. I’ll just let you on a little secret. Most of the playerbases suggestions are one or more of:

a) Duplicates of existing systems you use

b) Thrown out because it didn’t fix the problem

c) Ridiculously irritating to the point of removing the ‘game’ element

Now Jagex stated last time:

Andrew follows with, “We looked at any number of different possible solutions. We’ve read independent studies and spoken with other people in the MMOG industry. Ultimately, the consensus is that the only way to remove the real-world trading market is to develop your game so you cannot make unbalanced trades.”
http://www.runescape.com/kbase/guid/diary06

Has the MMOG industry consensus changed or have new studies altered this. If not, you’re still fighting a war against people who can operate from any jurisdiction they like, who have more money than Jagex.

Macroing should be an easier fight (and the two ARE seperate) and it’s also a much smaller problem. Heck it barely self-funds.

Here you have advantages:

  1. Bots are made by players
  2. Players (by your choice optionally) have to live in copyright friendly jurisdictions.
  3. Activision-Blizzard did the hard work

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MDY_Indus._LLC_v._Blizzard_Entm%27t,_Inc.

That’s the macro/bot lawsuit for the United States. It should easily enable you to follow suit and argue on similar grounds. RuneScape’s even actually better because it’s arguably more of a server based game than WoW.

But instead, GamerLaw reports it’s your IP protection that is screwing you around. You should win the case based on the Berne Convention, but seriously, it would have been summary judgement if you hadn’t messed it up.

http://www.gamerlaw.co.uk/2010/09/setback-for-jagex-in-runescape-lawsuit.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berne_Convention_for_the_Protection_of_Literary_and_Artistic_Works

One final point. RuneScape is perhaps not unique, but you do have several things which increase it, which you may have to look at:

1) A lot of people play for PvP. Many of these don’t care about other skills but they train them to help them in PvP. So they pay for an account/skills for this. There might be a fix for this, but it’s controversial (tip: make a change to a non-combat skill, maybe 40 threads will be created, make a change to the stats of 1 item in combat and expect 200+ – they care, big time).

2) RuneScape takes a long time to max. A year in game and I’m not ‘max’ yet. Inevitably people see the top players and want to be there, without the time penalty. There is no real fix for this.

Ok, I’m done with botting and RWIT. It annoys the heck out of me. I was modded during the first Anti-Macro War and still hate the pests. I don’t really expect you to win either of them, because I’ve seen plenty of games die from them. But keep fighting and I’ll keep paying.

When I say this platform is old, I really mean it. Upgrading it isn’t an option – we need to roll out a completely different solution. The forums are not even powered by a database – it’s that old!

We are looking at how we best roll out a new solution – be that the clan forums or a 3rd party solution. Because of the current setup we cant roll out a 3rd party solution this year – it wouldn’t plug in to the rest of the website/game.

So we are looking at a shorter term solution and that is on-going. You have to realise that since this is a browser based game we are in the same queue as development for any implementations and fixes as essentially the same team is responsible for delivering a lot of the web facing solutions. There are some very important projects on-going right now (including bots) and as such we have to wait our turn.

Hmm, maybe seeing as you have one of the world’s biggest forums this is kinda hard. Sucks to be you here.

Wow. You don’t have a seperate website and game team? I guess your designers never saw: http://mmotidbits.com/2011/03/09/why-mmos-are-complicated/‘s diagrams huh? Seriously, you should split it ASAP, if only so you can get a faster turn-around time for new features.  If this is the case I totally feel for you right now.

“So we are looking at a shorter term solution and that is on-going. ”

Hmm, be careful. The Computer Scientist in me says the short term solution is a long term problem 😀 It’s not going to kill the forum-folk if it’s 18-24 months to the new one I expect. It’s causing you pain in Q&As sure, but in reality it’s not a huge deal to most people who use the forums.

On de-moddings,

we do offer warnings if the situation allows it

No evidence of this as far as I’ve seen, we lost Nas and Jiblix both without a warning so far as I know. Nothing else to say here. I can’t back it up completely because I’m loyal right now, but I’m willing to debate this one in person.

 We are not expecting them to agree with everything we say or do, this is why we have private moderator forums – they can use this to vent/talk to us.

The problem is that we take flak in game and forums for this. It’s hard one I’ll agree. I spent about 20 minutes today defending ‘the value of P-Mods’ when we don’t mute dicers or doublers, are powerless against RWIT and can’t ban bots. I’ve got legitimate valid answers to them all and some I dicussed but it makes us look like puppets.

At the end of the day you’re problems are my problems, so we’ll get through it – hopefully before we lose all the Mods we have left 😛

Jiblix complained about lack of action though, so we’ll have to see.

Moving on for now Rants (hopefully this isn’t one :P), here’s the tail end of your argument:

Now yes I accept there were other options – we reviewed a lot of alternatives believe me! We could have hidden that forum from public view so that it didn’t get indexed for example. However, I really don’t believe in hiding any of our community behind closed doors. I want everyone to see what an amazing place this is and tempt them to get involved too!

  1. It can be actually on view and yet not indexed by search engines! The ‘robots.txt’ file for example is not a security policy 😛
  2. Hiding the effect doesn’t hide the cause. Why are players driven to writing rants? That’s a far more important question. What did the ‘**** you Jagex’ thread contain.
  3. However, I really have to agree with you in general. A concentrated area of negativity is going to be removed by anyone with an ounce of PR frankly. It shouldn’t have been put back in my view.

Moving onto Marketing,

This appears to be a negative to some of you guys which surprised me at first. I saw it as a real positive and absolutely the right thing for Community Management to move away from player support and into a department which essentially gives us a much bigger voice and ensures we are able to put your thoughts and feedback forward with more weight now.

The problem is that they are getting annoyingly close to RWIT. When player suggestions are put forward, wild allegations are put out – do please explain how membership discounts for referring new members is fraud!, only I’m sure certain British gyms use it, not to mention other areas. Refer-A-Friend soon became known as Refer-a-Bot within certain circles and criticisms started (prior to your arrival) aimed at Bonus-XP-Weekend (BXPW) to be used towards newer projects. I accept you are new to it – that much is fairly obvious.

J-Mod Interaction!

This one concerns me a little that we are still not considered to be engaging enough with our members. I rolled out a short term strategy which basically saw me completely re-organise the team. For the first time ever we have 5 people dedicated to just living on the forums and engaging with you all. We also have other staff who use the forums on a regular basis too so we have so many people supposedly engaging with you each week. We do run regular reports to show how many posts we make each week, perhaps we could publish this on the forums too so that you see some transparency from us and also get a feel for how much time we do spend on here?

I’ve already covered this partially at the beginning as part of ‘the Jagex way’, however there are some points I’ll make.

  1. Yes – you might want to put the numbers in the Newsletter (Gielenor Tribune I think it is).
  2. You’ll never get enough J-Mods. Seriously. So do your best, but accept minor criticism here.
  3. Make a ‘J-Mod viewed/posted’ thread flag (similar to the ‘locked flag’) for the forum upgrade. This would probably massively improve suggestions on it’s own. It also makes interaction obvious.
Social Media:
I have sat down with SteveW and with the Translated Languages guys to ensure we are getting more content on the forums too. I have asked that ALL teaser images are posted on the forums at the same time as they are placed on Facebook. I have asked for more Competitions and Q&A’s to be forum based too. It’s a start and we will look to grow this :)
If you weren’t doing stuff on the Social Media website I’d have said you were crazy. Anyway. You could also create a ‘Media Page’ for the year and post the latest and best images on the website (pending web resources I guess).  Finally, an idea. Create a Forum-exclusive and then share the forum thread on the social media sites 🙂
I want to make one change right now though, I want us to rename the Community Management team to the Community Engagement team. I think this is a better fit for the direction we want to go in as we are not here to MANAGE you, but to ENGAGE with you.
Yay, much better. 😀
All in all a much more positive look at the real main issues.
I’m still hoping to catch Mod Baker011 to debate any outstanding points – there’s one or two things I noted above.
Wow, that was a long post. Sorry 😛
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Responses

  1. I read your blog! why didn’t i get a post about me 😦

  2. Nice read. Your blog post highlights some of the many challenges Jagex is facing these days, primarily because of the shift in IP ownership and their inability or lack of understanding to coexist with a gaming community built on non-profit values.


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